A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
FORT LAUDERDALE BEACH, Fla.– On this tiny, tropical beach town, it looks like just another part of Florida and yet, beneath the serene facade, the storm that swept through the region two months back has left its mark.
A small sign sits by the entrance to the oceanfront boardwalk. “Pleasure beach,” it says. The signs are commonplace on this city of 30,000. They dot the palm trees in the yards of the single-story houses that line Main Street. There is a school to go to, a grocery store to shop at and, above all, a boardwalk to stroll along as the sun sets into the horizon.
There is no sign that someone was not quite ready for the hurricane. There is no graffiti. No broken window panes. No overturned cars. There are no signs of anything out of the ordinary.
But on a visit last week, as the sun set, the town’s population dwindled. A mother with two children huddled in a small front room, eating cheese and salsa off paper plates as the children tried to play with the dolls they had brought for the day.
The storm had taken away the small homes like this one. Most still had roofs over their heads. Most still had their doors open. There were no power lines down.
But the small businesses — a hardware store, a furniture store and a couple of restaurants — had suffered, too.
And in a city with many beach-front lots, the loss of a single building — a house or a condo or a townhouse — is significant.
“It’s a beautiful area,” said Michael Linn, a professor at the University of South Florida who for years has studied the effects of Hurricanes Andrew and Joaquin when they hit the region. “But there was still a lot of damage when it happened. It’s hard to think about what those people had left — there’s some people who have lost their homes.”
It’s a small town, yet Linn said it’s unusual for there to be so many tourists — and that many of them stay in the area, as the town has a major airport and a hotel.
“There are not a lot of tourist dollars, so